Bishop’s message for November: Remaining connected to the Vine of Life

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower… I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing (John 15.1, 5).

The world-wide Catholic Church exists because the Lord God has willed it so. The Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus gave his apostles a mandate and a mission. The mandate the Lord gave to the Apostles and to every disciple: “to love as I have loved you” (John 12.24, John 15.16-17), to seek holiness of life in service to all. The mission the Lord gave to the Apostles: “go and make disciples of all nations…baptizing them . . . teaching all to observe all I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28. 19-20). When the Holy Spirit fell upon the gathered apostles and disciples at Pentecost including the mother of Jesus the Church became Christ’s Body for this worldinstruments of His Presence, to the greater glory of God.

What the dark storm of turmoil and scandal and sadness and anger of these present days of scandal tells us is that some of the Lord’s priests and some of the Lord’s bishops did not remain connected to the Vine of Life, were not obedient to His Way of Life, did not accept in humility the mandate and the mission given to his followers. What we now know is that some Bishops and some Priests have lived immoral lives . . . living falsely, living double lives, living a lie not for God, not in service, but in an immoral self-seeking that has brought pain and brokenness to their victims.

Please know that the Church of central Louisiana, our Diocese of Alexandria, is committed to the mandate and the mission of the Risen Lord. Please know that I am committed to serve you as a successor of the Apostles, to serve you firstly by remaining connected to the Vine of Life, to the glory of our Father, to seek to live a happy and joyful and holy life as God grants, by continually saying NO to the evil one and saying YES to an intentional and missionary discipleship, day by day. Please know that I will do all in my power, to exhort the priests and deacons and lay-faithful of our Diocese to live the life we were called to live: a life of humility and simplicity, a life dedicated in the Lord to the service of all, as proclaimers of the Kingdom and as lovers of humanity, chaste lovers in imitation of Christ the Lord.

As we have lived through these months of horror, in seeing the fruit of evil committed by our clergy broadcast on the nightly news and through the various outlets on the Internet, many have asked what must we do, what can we do to answer this evil of the sexual abuse of minors, this evil of some of our Churchmen living lives of the great lie?  The Lord answers our plea: give yourself completely to me (Mark 10.17-22); seek first the Kingdom and the Lord’s righteousness (Matthew 6.33); be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful (Luke 6. 36); and his mother says do whatever he tells you to do (John 2.5).

Along with my exhortation, as a brother in discipleship and as your Bishop, I have taken measures that will allow us once and for all to know about the sexual abuse of minors by clergy from the establishment of this Diocese (in 1853, as the Diocese of Natchitoches) until today. To this end, these are the measures that I have put in place:

  • I have created an Ad Hoc Committee (A), made up of lay members of the Permanent Review Board and clergy members of that Board as well as clergy assisting me in the Chancery, to go through all records of the Permanent Review Board from its inception (after the Dallas Charter of 2002) through 2018. This Committee of dedicated Roman Catholics will look at every reported allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor by a bishop or priest or deacon. We will look to see how each allegation was answered and what actions were taken.
  • At the same time, I have asked for a two-step systematic study of all correspondence of the Bishops of this Diocese and the systematic study all of the personnel files of the bishops and priests and deacons that have served our people. As we are an old Diocese and since we have benefited from international clergy (at first, from France and Spain, then later, from India and nations of Africa), this study will take us some time. We are looking for any mention of an allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor.

B1. The first complete study will be made by our Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor.

B2. A second complete study of all records will be made by two lay members of the Permanent Review Board, assisted by the Vice-Chancellor.

The findings of these two studies will be compared and unified as to content, by all parties of the study.

  • THEN, after consulting with Chancery personnel that have served under our former Bishops for any additional information, I will take the work of the Ad Hoc Committee (A) and the work of the two studies of the records of all clergy (B1&2) and present this to the full membership of the Permanent Review Board. The Board will decide how we will publish the names of all the clerics that have been credibly accused of the immoral and criminal sexual abuse of a minor. The list of names will be published in the Church Today and shown on our website. This publication will take place when we have completed this thorough study of all correspondence and records.

The hope?  We pray that the victims of this evil will find some solace, in seeing that the perpetrating cleric has been named publicly.  We pray that this transparency will give each of you some small comfort, knowing that I will hope to serve you as Bishop in a way that exhorts the light and love of the Lord and rejects the immoralities of clerical malfeasance, of clerical arrogance, of clerical ambition and of clerical sin.

Please know that my brothers–our Priests and our Deacons are extraordinary men and they join me in seeking holiness of life and a transparency in the way we react to any future criminal immorality against a minor, God forbid. My hope? To proclaim to all that will hear me the Way and the Truth and the Life of the Lord Jesus, He, the Vine of Life and we, His branches, are connected to the dynamic life of the Trinity, connected to life, connected to Love.

AMDG

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
(For The Greater Glory of God)